The Franklin half dollar is a popular series to collect. These coins were minted between 1948 and 1963 and remain in demand today for many reasons, not the least of which is their relative affordability and the ease with which they can be obtained. This is a great coin set project for beginning collectors.
Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father
Benjamin Franklin, while never an American president, was a founding father who is well remembered for his inventions and his work during the American Revolution and afterwards on behalf of the new nation. In 1947, Nellie Taylor Ross, the director of the U.S. Mint and a fan of Franklin’s, pushed for a coin that would feature his likeness. She asked the mint’s chief engraver, John Sinnock, to create a design. Sinnock had also designed the Roosevelt dime, but he died before he could complete the Franklin project. His successor, Gilroy Roberts, finished up the work on the Franklin half dollar.
The obverse of the Franklin half dollar bears Franklin’s profile portrait. His hair flows to his shoulders. The word LIBERTY appears above his head with the phrase IN GOD WE TRUST below and the minting date to the right. The reverse features the Liberty Bell with its famous crack, a tiny eagle to its right and the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM to its left. At the top of the coin are the words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and at the bottom HALF DOLLAR.
The Franklin half dollar is one of the three most collectible halves, which include the Walking Liberty half dollar and the Kennedy half dollar. It replaced the Walking Liberty half dollar in 1948 and was succeeded by the Kennedy half in 1964 after Kennedy’s death.
Popularity of the Franklin Half Dollar
This coin remains a popular choice with collectors for a number of reasons. First, it features a number of patriotic images, from the Liberty Bell to the Eagle to Franklin himself. There are many iconic stories about Benjamin Franklin that American children learned in school. His face is a very familiar one.
Second, like the Walking Liberty, but unlike the Kennedy, all Franklin halves were struck in 90% silver and have lasting, inherent value. There are not many rare or scarce issues of this coin, and most are sold for their bullion - or melt - value. There are a few very collectible varieties that can make a hunt worthwhile, though. Their value can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. Full-bell-line (FBL) Franklin halves, for example, are very scarce and in gem uncirculated condition can sell for many thousands of dollars.
Another popular variety is the Bugs Bunny Franklin half dollar. Because of a die clash error, he appears to have buck teeth like the cartoon rabbit. We’ve listed a 1953-S Bugs Bunny coin in gem uncirculated condition for $375.
Third, collecting a Franklin half dollar set is a great challenge for a new coin collector. Excluding proofs or varieties, there are only 35 regular-issue coins necessary to collect for a full set. They are affordable in circulated grades for just a bit more than their melt value. For collectors who relish the hunt, there are other rarer issues they can collect, so there’s something for every type of collector, depending on their resources and how much time they want to spend looking.
It’s fun to build a collection of varieties of this fine American coin. They ceased being minted almost 60 years ago, so they’re becoming more of a historical piece with every year that passes. If you’re looking to collect Franklin half dollars, call us at Grand Rapids Coins. We will be happy to help you find what you need and discuss the finer points of rarer issues or coin collecting in general.